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A golden opportunity at Microsoft USA


a golden opportunity

My name is Étienne Baudoux, I’m 23 years old, and I’m starting my 4th year at SUPINFO. I’ve been in charge of the Microsoft Lab in Paris since my 1st year, and for all of France since last year. I've just finished my second consecutive internship with Microsoft in the United States.


For INSIDE Magazine we met Etienne BAUDOUX, student at SUPINFO International University.

SUPINFO Inside: How did you go about getting an internship at Microsoft in the US?

Etienne BAUDOUX : Etienne Baudoux: I repeated a couple of years in college, and I had to resit my science A-levels, so I wasn’t always at the top of the class, contrary to what some people think. Like a lot of people in IT, I started early, at the age of 12. At the time, I was learning to make web sites with HTML and CSS, but without really learning JavaScript, which seemed too complicated. I had made my own little personal site – full of spelling and grammatical errors, by the way. I still remember coding in Notepad on Windows Millennium on an old Compaq PC that used to belong to my father, with 3 gigs of hard drive space and 256 megs of RAM. I also remember testing my HTML pages on the only web browser that worked on Windows at the time, Internet Explorer, a while before I discovered an early version of Mozilla Firefox.

Soon after that, in 2005, I got the urge to create software “without coding” – I was imagining a tool like RPG Maker, but for software development, and of course that didn’t exist. So I decided to go ahead and learn a programming language by myself after all: Dark Basic, specialised for video games, then Visual Basic .NET and C# with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Express. It was through Visual Studio that I fell in love with software development, and with Microsoft.

After a few small projects in 2007, I wanted to do something that would help me to break out a bit within the community, despite my young age. So I figured that the best approach would be to innovate, so I wouldn’t have to deal with any competition. My thoughts came back to RPG Maker soon enough, and I remembered that for a while I had been looking for a tool to let me create software without coding. So I threw myself into this project of creating an IDE where you could develop Windows applications using only the mouse.
Two years later, after abandoning the project several times because of my lack of technical skills, the first version came out. Lots of people probably would have given up on the project for good, but this project was really important to me, and I like a challenge, so I knew I absolutely had to finish it. The project was ultimately released under the name of SoftwareZator (http://softwarezator.velersoftware.com). The 4th version came out in 2014.

In 2010, while I was working on the second version of this application, I got a newsletter in my email inbox from Microsoft France, and it included the email address of the marketing director for DX (Developer Experience, known as DPE at the time). I said to myself, “OK, nothing ventured, nothing gained – let's contact this person.” So I sent an email that was pretty unprofessional compared to what I would do today, introducing myself and presenting my main project, SoftwareZator. Three days later, I got a response saying that my project and my website looked interesting, and that they’d like to meet me to get a demonstration. You can’t imagine what that feels like. First you feel this immense joy on finding out that a big American multinational corporation is interested in your profile at the age of 16 – and then immense fear about having to do a demonstration, since I had never given one before. So my father, who used to be a technical sales agent at Phillips, helped me to put together a PowerPoint presentation and prepare what I was going to say. After that, it was pretty simple: I showed up at the Microsoft France campus in Issy-les-Moulineaux, gave my demonstration, and they were “blown away”, as they put it. So they offered me a free MSDN account. I asked them what IT school they could recommend for me, and they pointed me to SUPINFO.

A year later, when I had a second chance to meet up with them, they introduced me to the MSP programme, as in “Microsoft Student Partners”, which brings together a community of students who are passionate about Microsoft technologies and looking to exchange ideas. They suggested that I apply to get in, which I did. So I’ve been an MSP since 2011, when I started my last year of college.

Two years later, here I am at the end of my first year at SUPINFO. Since starting my university studies, I’ve unfortunately had to admit that I don’t have enough time any more to keep working on SoftwareZator, which is getting too big (about 2 million lines of code) for me to maintain it myself. So I meet with one of my contacts and friends at Microsoft France. We talk about how I can sell this project off, since I wasn’t interested in starting a company at the time, and we come to the conclusion that it might be interesting to talk to Microsoft Corporation in the United States to get their point of view. So I prepare an 80-slide PowerPoint introducing myself and my projects, and my friend sends it directly to the director of the developer division there. One of the things he works on is the development of Visual Studio, which is the project most similar to SoftwareZator in terms of design.

More than three weeks after sending my PowerPoint, my contact finally got a response. Nothing to say about my project, but they ask ed me to send them my resume in English, which I did. A day or two later, I got an email from an HR officer at Microsoft inviting me to come and meet them right at company headquarters in Redmond, which is near Seattle in the United States. It was my first trip ever to the US, and the first time I would have to speak English by myself, which I have to admit was not easy. I met 5 developers from the developer division in one day, so that’s 5 different technical interviews where I was asked to come up with an algorithmic solution to a problem on a white board – an even more difficult challenge. The day after the interviews, just before boarding my return flight, I got an email from HR telling me I'd been accepted for a summer internship. So that’s how it happened.


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